Walking: Your Muse's Ace in the Hole
Emerging Form talks our walk with poet & painter Valencia Robin
“Writing and walking both lead me back to myself.” —Valencia Robin
Preview: Episode 65, The Link Between Creative Practice and Walking
One step in front of the other. What works for walking is also true of the creative practice. And that’s not where the congruence stops. In this episode of Emerging Form, we speak with poet and painter Valencia Robin about how walking inspires her art and writing and how it shows up in her work. We nod to the studies that show what we know: walking opens the mind. And Robin reads us poems by several contemporary writers who have been influenced by their walks.
Valencia Robin’s debut poetry collection, Ridiculous Light, is the winner of Persea Books’ Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, a finalist for the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and was named one of the best poetry books of 2019 by Library Journal. A poetry instructor as well as a co-director of the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop, Robin has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Virginia and an MFA in Art & Design from the University of Michigan, where she also co-founded GalleryDAAS. Also a painter and curator, Robin’s visual work has been exhibited nationally and supported by the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship and the Center for the Education of Women’s Margaret Towsley Fellowship.
What We’re Reading and Listening to:
There are no words for how much I love this book about all the feelings for which there are no words. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig is absolutely genius. Koenig creates words for things such as the feeling when you “try to keep an amazing discovery to yourself … because you’re afraid it will end up being diluted and distorted.” (His word is trueholding. Or consider wildred: “feeling the haunting solitude of extremely remote places.” I freaking love this book.
This poem, “From our Shadows,” by W.S. Merwin wrestles with how it is that there is so much more to say about grief than joy—more words for grief, more impulse to write about grief, and yet, here, a sweet and strange burst of joy …
I just read Benjamín Labatut’s novel, When We Cease to Understand the World (translated by Adrian Nathan West) and now I want to read its entire bibliography to figure out which parts are history and which parts are fiction. It’s a fictionalized telling of scientific discovery by famous (male) scientists like Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg and mathematician Alexander Grothendieck. I also enjoyed Vox’s podcast episode about the book.
Christina Holbrook’s beautiful little essay “The Gardener”, about small moments with her neighbor, is the kind of story that stays with you long after the last word. “Maybe what our neighbor, the artist and gardener, had already come to terms with is that you lose everything. And so, you try to make beauty—or at least try to see it—along the way,” she writes.
After Graduate School
Needless to say I support the forsythia’s war
against the dull colored houses, the beagle
deciphering the infinitely complicated universe
at the bottom of a fence post. I should be gussying up
my resume, I should be dusting off my protestant work ethic,
not walking around the neighborhood loving the peonies
and the lilac bushes, not heading up Shamrock
and spotting Lucia coming down the train tracks. Lucia
who just sold her first story and whose rent is going up,
too, Lucia who says she’s moving to South America to save money,
Lucia, cute twenty-something I wish wasn’t walking down train tracks
alone. I tell her about my niece teaching in China, about the waiter
who built a tiny house in Hawaii, how he saved up, how
he had to call the house a garage to get a building permit.
Someone’s practicing the trumpet, someone’s frying bacon
and once again the wisteria across the street is trying to take over
the nation. Which could use a nice invasion, old growth trees
and sea turtles, every kind of bird marching
on Washington. If I had something in my refrigerator,
if my house didn’t look like the woman who lives there
forgot to water the plants, I’d invite Lucia home,
enjoy another hour of not thinking about not having a job,
about not having a mother to move back in with.
I could pick Lucia’s brain about our circadian rhythms,
about this space between sunrise and sunset,
ask if she’s ever managed to get inside it, the air,
the sky ethereal as all get out—so close
and no ladder in sight.
Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
A Note About Paid Subscriptions:
First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Starting this month, only our paid subscribers will receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support.
This week, we talk with Valencia Robin about the worst creative advice she’s been given and how she ignored it, the importance of finding the right genre for your practice, and why mornings are her best creative time.
If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com or by clicking the button below. Thank you!
(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)
Do you have a movement practice (walking, running, skiing, dancing) that informs your creative practice?
Where do you do your best creative thinking?